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DOE’s Innovative Small Business Vouchers Pilot Selects 33 Small Businesses for Lab Collaboration

March 10, 2016 - 1:04pm


News release from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced that 33 small businesses have been selected to work directly with DOE national labs to accelerate the transformation toward a clean energy economy. The selected businesses will be afforded access to world-class laboratory resources to help move these innovative ideas and technologies closer to the marketplace. 

The department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will invest nearly $6.7 million under Round 1 of the new Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot. These partnerships between clean energy small businesses and DOE national laboratories help promote economic development and American innovation by pairing DOE's unparalleled laboratory resources and expertise with small business drive and creativity. 

Across the nation, small businesses provide a tremendous opportunity to accelerate America's clean energy economy. Small businesses develop innovative technology and produce more than 15 times as many patents per employee as larger patenting firms, according to the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy.  Through these SBV projects, the department and its laboratories will gain valuable private sector insight into the technological and commercialization challenges facing the clean tech economy.

"The U.S. Department of Energy is firmly committed to maximizing the impact of the national lab system on the clean energy economy," said Dr. David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "The Small Business Vouchers pilot allows innovative entrepreneurs greater access to the world-class resources and brilliant minds in our labs. These partnerships can help small businesses solve their most pressing technical challenges - and help bring clean energy technologies to commercialization much faster."

The selected small businesses, from more than 20 states, will work with scientists at nine department laboratories--Oak Ridge National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

SBV is a collaborative, national effort that provides $20 million for U.S. companies to help improve industry awareness of national laboratory capabilities and provide small and mid-size businesses access to the resources available within the national laboratory system. Vouchers range from $50,000-300,000.

The companies were competitively chosen from a pool of hundreds of applications.  Almost 40 percent of the businesses represent new DOE-industry partnerships and relationships with the national labs. Building on the tremendous response of Round 1, the department also announced today it will start accepting applications for Round 2 of the SBV pilot. A total of $13 million worth of funding remains; over the course of the year, up to 100 vouchers will be awarded.

For Round 1, the small businesses and laboratories will collaborate on advancing several clean energy technologies, including water, wind, bioenergy, solar, buildings, vehicles, fuel cells, geothermal technologies, and advanced manufacturing. Specifics follow for each area.

  • Water: Work in the water area will focus on developing technologies to convert the ocean's waves, as well as other sources, such as canals, into clean, cost-competitive energy; 
  • Wind: Work in the wind area will focus on eliminating market barriers for the adoption of commercial wind turbines by improving prediction models;
  • Bioenergy: Work in the bioenergy area will focus on improving methods and processes for converting cellulosic biomass into usable bio-based chemicals, made from renewable, domestic components;
  • Solar: Work in the solar area will focus on developing new, more efficient solar collectors, as well as integrating new solar technologies into the grid;
  • Buildings: Work in the buildings area will focus on improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of building energy systems, including HVAC systems;
  • Vehicles: Work in the vehicles area will focus on improved technologies for making vehicles safer, more efficient, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Fuel Cells: Work in the fuel cells area will focus on developing several projects, whose aims include creating cheaper, more durable fuel cells;
  • Geothermal: Work in the geothermal area will focus on improving tools used to access and test geothermal power;
  • Advanced Manufacturing: Work in the advanced manufacturing area will focus on reducing manufacturing costs, optimizing methods and evaluating new processes in applications for 3D printing, LED devices, sensors, catalyst development, and bio-derived lignin, as well as developing pathways toward zero-emissions fuel cell electric vehicles.

To see a full list of small businesses competitively selected under Round 1, please visit

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. For more, visit the National Laboratory Impact Initiative's homepage. To learn more about the Small Business Vouchers pilot, including how to apply, visit